I know it’s been a while; my last posted Reception Report will vouch for that. Though I have continued to send them out in the morning, the idea of it lost its sparkle when somewhere along the line the pressure took out the pleasure. I intend on making up for my lack of blogging with an update on my Emerald Isle adventures and this… a little reflection on the journey thus far.
Last week I took a look at the calendar – Wednesday, 11 May 2011. My one year anniversary. Queue chinking champagne flutes. On one hand I believe it completely, so much has happened since that wintery Monday morning in May 2010. On the other hand, I can’t believe an entire year has passed already and I’m nowhere near ready for this marvellous voyage of self-discovery to end.
I remember lumbering my backpack into the back of my dad’s car and sitting in the front seat on the way to airport with my head in my hands. ‘What am I doing?’ I gurgled at him, the result of a sleepless night worrying about whether I’d packed enough socks. His response resembled something along the lines of ‘I don’t know, what are you doing?’. This question I’d surmise was the result of a parent watching his eldest child feck off for the second time in 5 years for an indeterminate amount of time, knowing full well she was likely to return homeless, with 25kg more shite and a maxed out credit card.
I could continue down my cliché padded route and tell you what followed was a life changing 12 months, but that would sort of be like shoving a polished diamond in your face and telling you it’s beautiful. So here in no particular order is just a list- my lessons, my memories and my ‘OMG’ moments of the last 365 days.
1. Do not back 5 pairs of shoes, 4 bottles of perfume, 15 pairs of earrings, 10 bangles and 23 kilograms of worth of clothing into a backpack and expect to be able to walk from the terminals to the tube at Heathrow Airport with it strapped to your back.
2. Said backpack was not functional at said weight, therefore multiple return journeys over the last year to Basingstoke were required (dictated mainly by seasonal wardrobe swaps), where a kind friend offered to house what I could not carry. In her attic. In a box twice the size of my bag. How I brought it all to Europe in the first place remains a logistic enigma.
3. Edinburgh. It blew my mind. I fell in love; on a spring day in May by myself I walked up and down the city with my mouth slightly agape. If you get the chance, go there. It’s worth it.
4. The Island. My summer in Greece was without a doubt the most amazing three months of my life to date. I was forced (sometimes gently, sometimes ferociously and at all times without my express consent) to take everything I knew about myself, throw it all up into the air at the same time and then catch. The things I caught are the things about me that make me who I am; the things I dropped are those that attached themselves by way of relationships, circumstance and lifestyle. Surplus. So whilst I left Santorini with an amazing tan, phenomenal new and old friends and a borderline alcoholic – I left as the rawest version of myself.*
* I will endeavour to make all further points sound less like a sequel to ‘Eat, Drink, Spew’.
5. Jumping off that cliff. We jumped four times in total Liv and I. Too prove something to ourselves, to each other and for the adrenaline rush.
6. ‘Sotto il cielo di Roma’. I spent a week re-exploring Rome, walking down every tiny alleyway I could find, flirting with Nonno’s that served me caffѐ and gelato and then ten days in Lake Como on a faux-honeymoon with Kellie reigniting my intense infatuation with the world’s greatest lover. Italy – you are on my list, I’m coming back for you.
7. Las Ramblas in Barcelona. All of the tacky shit aside, the place is alive. It pulsates under your feet. It makes you want to drink sangria on balmy nights and dance in the streets in red dresses. The clubs in Barcelona however, just make you want to hold your hand over your drink for fear of being roofied.
8. It’s Not Easy. Getting to Dublin alone, starting from scratch in a country in so much debt I’m thinking about renaming it ‘Ireece’ was hard. It was lonely. It was scary. It was fucking freezing.
9. The snow. Ireland experienced more snowfall and lower temperatures than it had for the previous 36 years. I bought a reindeer shaped waterbottle. It was so cold in my house I would have to get dressed in the bathroom and get back into my bed to do my makeup. A small part of my soul died that winter.
10. Family. My long awaited journey back to Cape Town this year served as a well-timed reminder that my family still exists. I have second cousins, third cousins, grandparents and even more family related by love rather than blood. 2011 also opened a new chapter for my immediate family. A chapter with reconciliation, understanding and perhaps even one day unity.
11. Surprising Liv in Münster for her 26th birthday and proceeding to dance around her kitchen belting out ‘C’est la vie’ with a room of people willingly doing the same.
12. Hating and then loving and then hating Brussels. Unlikely to ever return again. Despite the wonderful waffles and beautiful beers.
13. Ireland. The countryside is what it says on the tin. Its blue skies (I kid) and rolling green hills. It’s sheep for Africa and cows a ’plenty. It’s stunning.
14. In the hope of putting a halt (or at least an exception) to the wildly accepted theory out there that Irish men are amazing, in my humble experiences I have unfortunately come across few Irish men that are not:
b. Mammy’s boys
c. Average looking.
15. ‘The craic’. It’s still not a phrase I’m completely comfortable using, but it describes IT -the craic that is- down to the last c. It explains why I have made fierce and firm friends and why my liver will never fully recover from my 8 month stint as a Dubliner.
16. Life without cake, is no life at all. Don’t go to London and expect not to drink beer and guzzle plates of fish and chips. Don’t go to Greece and expect not to lather yourself in tzatziki and gyros. Don’t go to Italy and not attempt to stuff gelato, pasta and pizza in your mouth all at the same time. Try going to Spain and not living on litres of sangria and cured ham. Imagine going to Ireland and convincing yourself you’re not going to drink pints of Guinness for dinner. Ok you get it. Travel comes hand in hand with jeans that no longer fit and the substitution of clothes for muumuus. All I’m saying is that it’s worth it. Every sip, every mouthful and every goddam extra kilogram.
My giant arse and I send our sincere thanks for your company over the last year. And raise our glasses to the next chapter.